The final mixtape for these ‘a-holes’ is the most fun and emotional a Marvel Studios movie has been in several years.
Ever since the end of the Infinity Saga with Avengers: Endgame back in 2019, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has been inconsistent at best. It isn’t like they have put out absolute garbage since then, but it hasn’t felt the same since Tony Stark heroically stole the infinity gauntlet from Thanos and snapped him away forever. Spider-Man: No Way Home was a blast and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was entertaining, but Thor: Love and Thunder and the third Ant-Man installment were forgettable, at best. Needless to say, and without getting into the television side of things which has been even more inconsistent, Marvel Studios really needed to hit another home run, and they did thanks to James Gunn returning to make Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
We kick it off with the Guardians living in Knowhere, and we get the traditional rock tune playing as the characters are doing their thing. During this kick off, the camera is mostly focused on Rocket Racoon (Bradley Cooper), which lets us know that he is going to be a big part of this installment. We then get our first look at Will Poulter as Adam Warlock, flying into Knowhere and crashing into Rocket until he eventually falls unconscious. Rocket then spends the bulk of the movie lying on an operating table aboard the ship as the Guardians try to figure out how to save him. During this time, we get flashbacks to how Rocket became who he is and the creatures he knew before he met the Guardians. These scenes are very good and added nice depth to Rocket, which we had only gotten crumbs about his past until now.
The story in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is pretty straightforward, but it packs an emotional punch that we haven’t really seen in this cinematic universe since Endgame. It certainly feels like a wrap-up for these characters during the entire film, which only adds to the emotion during this swan song. But despite the emotions, we still get more than plenty of hilarious (and creepy) moments that clearly show James Gunn’s fingerprints on this. There are only a few times where Marvel Studios just can’t help themselves with making a joke during a serious moment, but Gunn makes the most of them in this finale. If there is one con to this movie, it’s the main villain in The High Evolutionary played by Chukwudi Iwuji. As an antagonist, he’s fine but doesn’t break any ground. The character basically has a major God complex that doesn’t add a lot more past that, but does add to the MCU’s continuous antagonist problem.
Without a doubt the most grounded movie in the trilogy, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 gives off an entirely different vibe from the get-go. However, it’s a nice reminder that a blockbuster of this size doesn’t have to operate off a cookie cutter script or formula with the right people in place. It’s been awhile since we’ve gotten a Marvel Studios movie this good and it’s an incredible sendoff for its cast of characters. Years from now, fans might look back and say that the Guardians of the Galaxy trilogy is the best trilogy in the MCU. Gunn really understands these characters and balances great filmmaking with what the studio wants. Marvel Studios is going to miss his vision in this cinematic universe, which saw him take a group of relatively unknown characters into now well-known comic book characters that got fans hooked on a feeling from its first track in 2014 to its final track landing in theaters this weekend.
(out of five stars)